Crook in jail despite posting $250,000 bail

Click to follow

Jeremy Crook, the latest British businessman extradited to the US under a controversial treaty, has been locked up by the immigration authorities despite posting $250,000 (£133,000) bail in San Diego.

The 53-year-old former executive of a bust Californian software company was granted bail on Saturday in a San Diego court after pleading not guilty to fraud charges, and ordered to stay in the southern California area.

However, he was then seized by immigration officials who regard him as an "illegal alien" since his extradition, and put him in a holding prison for illegal immigrants in downtown San Diego. His lawyer, Steve Law, said he was being held in a cell with about 30 Mexicans awaiting deportation, and was to be moved to a deportation centre at El Centro, on the Mexican border, though there were hopes he would be released soon. The solicitor could not explain why Mr Crook was being held by the immigration authorities, as he had secured a 15-day visa from the US marshals who accompanied him on the plane.

The NatWest Three bankers, whose recent extradition became a cause célèbre which united opponents of Britain's one-sided extradition treaty with the US, nearly suffered the same fate when they arrived in the US, but immigration officials let them go after pressure from the US attorney general.

Mr Law said the judge in the bail hearing said he might review the possibility of a return to the UK for Mr Crook.

The former European head of the San Diego-based Peregrine Systems vehemently denies the fraud charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 85 years in prison, and has yet to see the evidence against him. He is determined to prove his innocence at the trial next April.

He and 10 US executives at Peregrine, which went bust in 2002 leaving shareholders $4bn out of pocket, have been indicted by the US Department of Justice on allegations of accounting fraud and an attempted cover-up. Mr Crook argues the US financial watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission, has not indicted him on any charge, yet has indicted seven others. He also acts as a witness for the shareholders in their class action lawsuit against the former Peregrine executives.

Mr Crook did not contest his extradition but was denied the chance to fly voluntarily to the US and had to hand himself to US marshals at Heathrow airport last week.